"We get educated out of creativity"

Ken Robinson

I was looking back at some TED talks this morning and came across the rather hilarious talk by Sir Ken Robinson, 'Do schools kill creativity?' It got me thinking, surely this isn't always the case? Creativity is one of the 21st century skills that we all rhyme off but how many schools and teachers have the capacity to really create an environment the fosters creative thinking. Education systems around the world all basically teach to a standard test of some sort and this nearly always results in rote learning concentrating on Maths and basic humanities. The test rules and there is a set format for following. As student progress from K-12 their exposure to more creative learning experiences is reduced until ultimately they study in a prescribed format to sit a standard exam. Has the creativity been knocked completely out of them? Thankfully not!

The Imagine Cup is the world biggest student technology competition. The beauty of this competition is that students are challenged to develop a solution that can address one of the worlds toughest problems. Last years overall winners (from Ireland I might add) developed an application that used driver and historical data to make driving safer. This year, Sydney will host the global finals in July and just this week the Imagine Cup Australian finals took place. The projects in this years finals were a fantastic list of creative solutions to tackle the worlds toughest problems. The finalists were all third level students who had to some degree (I suspect) gone through our creativity killing education system but were still able to come up with simply amazing concepts to tackle global issues. See, they still had some creativity left!

Take a few minutes to check out the Imagine Cup Finalists in the link below and I think you will be amazed by the concepts and ideas that these students have come up with:

Imagine Cup Finalists

clip_image001What the Imagine Cup illustrates is that given the opportunity to create, students still have a fantastic capacity to develop innovative and inspiring ideas, concepts and ultimately products. That's great you're thinking but what can I do in my classroom on Monday morning……. Well simple brainstorming is perhaps one way that every classroom can begin to foster a creative environment.

For group brainstorming to work well in the classroom environment, it’s vital to create a climate where students are not tied to, or judged by, the ideas they throw out off the top of their heads. Students have to feel free to contribute without fear of being judged negatively by their peers or the teacher. You never know what may turn out to be a constructive contribution. Seemingly ridiculous thoughts may spark a chain reaction that leads to a creative solution or innovation. So, teachers have to establish a non-judgmental climate. Hopefully, a non-judgmental brainstorming culture will eventually be established in the classroom and the need for teacher reinforcement of that attitude will be minimized.

The ways to make creativity a central element of classroom activities is endless so below please see some concise resources that may help you develop creative projects (and will probably help you more than my ramblings!)

Innovative Teacher Toolkit Creativity Guide

Rui Lima's Creative Classroom Story

Sir Ken Robinson : Why should business people care about creativity?

Centre for Development and Learning : TEACHING FOR CREATIVITY: TWO DOZEN TIPS

Queensland University of Technology Paper: Promoting Creativity in Education - From Policy to Practice: An Australian Perspective

Oh and the winners of the Imagine Cup Australian finals were Stethocloud - Sure why couldn’t you plug a stethoscope to a smart phone to diagnose childhood pneumonia……. Would you have thought of that?